Tag Archives: non-communicable diseases

Urgent action needed to tackle stalled progress on health-related Sustainable Development Goals


20 May 2023 – Geneva – The World Health Organization (WHO) released the 2023 edition of its annual World Health Statistics report with new figures on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and the latest statistics on progress towards the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report with data up to 2022 underscores a stagnation of health progress on key health indicators in recent years compared with trends seen during 2000-2015. It also alerts us to the growing threat of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and climate change and calls for a coordinated and strengthened response.

COVID-19 cost in lost lives and health progress

The report documents updated statistics on the toll of the pandemic on global health, contributing to the ongoing decline in progress towards the SDGs. During 2020-2021, COVID-19 resulted in a staggering 336.8 million years of life lost globally. This equates to an average of 22 years of life lost for every excess death, abruptly and tragically cutting short the lives of millions of people.

Since 2000, we saw significant improvements in maternal and child health with deaths falling by one-third and one-half, respectively. The incidence of infectious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria also declined, along with a lowered risk of premature deaths from NCDs and injuries. Together, these contributed to an increase in global life expectancy from 67 years in 2000 to 73 years in 2019.

However, the pandemic has put many health-related indicators further off-track and contributed to inequalities in access to high-quality health care, routine immunizations and financial protection. As a result, improving trends in malaria and TB have been reversed, and fewer people were treated for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

“The World Health Statistics is WHO’s annual check-up on the state of the world’s health. The report sends a stark message on the threat of noncommunicable diseases, which take an immense and increasing toll on lives, livelihoods, health systems, communities, economies and societies,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.  “The report calls for a substantial increase in investments in health and health systems to get back on track towards the Sustainable Development Goals.”

NCDsan ever-increasing health threat for future generations

Despite overall health progress, the share of deaths caused annually by NCDs has grown consistently and is now claiming nearly three quarters of all lives lost each year.

If this trend continues, NCDs are projected to account for about 86% of the 90 million annual deaths by mid-century; consequently, 77 million of these will be due to NCDs – a nearly 90% increase in absolute numbers since 2019. 

Stagnating progress calls for acceleration

More recent trends show signs of slowdown in the annual rate of reduction (ARR) for many indicators. For example, the global maternal mortality ratio needs to decline by 11.6% per year between 2021 and 2030 to meet the SDG target. Similarly, the net reduction in TB incidence from 2015 to 2021 was only one-fifth of the way to the 2025 milestone of WHO’s End TB Strategy.

Despite a reduction in exposure to many health risks – such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, violence, unsafe water and sanitation, and child stunting – progress was inadequate and exposure to some risks such as air pollution remains high.

Alarmingly, the prevalence of obesity is rising with no immediate sign of reversal. Furthermore, expanded access to essential health services has slowed compared to pre-2015 gains, coupled with no significant progress in reducing financial hardship due to health-care costs. This drastically limits our ability to achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2030.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an important reminder that progress is neither linear nor guaranteed,” warns Dr Samira Asma, WHO Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics and Delivery for Impact. “To stay on track towards the 2030 SDG agenda, we must act decisively and collectively to deliver a measurable impact in all countries.”

This year’s report includes for the first time a dedicated section on climate change and health, and we anticipate that this will be of more relevance in the report going forward. For this issue and all other areas timely, reliable and disaggregated data are critical to track progress and improve national and global health policies.

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AFT Interviews: Dr. Pran Yoganathan Gastroenterologist and passionate educator uses IG memes to drive understanding on satiety

Gastroenterologist and hepatologist based in Sydney, Dr. Pran Yoganathan is an extremely passionate educator, a Mathematician-turned doctor who aims to empower his patients with data that can help them on a journey of self-healing using the philosophy of “let food be thy medicine”.

Dr. Pran who has innovatively harnessed creative technology and 14,400 followers on Instagram @dr_pran_yoganathan, stresses that his educational memes are not medical advice or recommendations, simply his opinions — and rather strong science-backed opinions they are too!

In the podcast interview, Dr. Pran speaks about his diet of choice, which comprises predominantly of grass-fed steak and eggs and why that has raised eyebrows and temperatures not just in the oven, but in conversation with peers as well. We ask him about butyrate and got him all fired up and excited! Now, are WE ready to absorb the fact that we’re meant to burn fat for energy and not glycogen? Let’s save that for perhaps another conversation. 

Joining co-hosts Jasmine Low and Nikki Yeo in this same episode are Dr. Desmond Menon, medical lab scientist featured in Ep. 2 Do Our Genes Predispose us to Diseases of our Parents and Malaysia’s “biggest” stand-up comedian Papi Zak who’s in training to be a wrestler.

Together, we pose our numerous curious questions to Dr. Pran and have a content-packed conversation that’s science-based yet entertaining and revealing at the same time! Dr. Pran’s message is to “eat a diet that is not rubbish, move your body”, and he shares science in between some of his Instagram posts.

We ask him why he got into gastroenterology, his inspiration behind the Hippocrates’ philosophy “let food be thy medicine” and his personal dietary habits.

On the table, we discuss hunter gatherer societies in our modern world where Dr. Pran shares about the Hazda ethnic group from Tanzania and how they forage for food today.

Dr. Pran sheds some light on high fibre diets – a push by the standard Western Diet and how excess fibre can slow down gut motility, cause reflux and bloating and fundamentally IBS.

“If you’re going to deal with fibre, you need the machinery. That is why you see our primate cousins, like the chimps and gorillas tend to have a thick hind gut, a very big belly, that’s not visceral fat, it’s simply machinery to deal with rough fibrous tissue. That’s not my theory, that is a scientific fact and it’s called the expensive tissue hypothesis. It’s what makes us special in terms of our species; our brains grew in response to a shrinking gut.

Dr. Pran Yoganathan, gastroenterologist

Incidentally, on a side track, if you’re interested to deep dive into the Expensitve Tissue Hypothesis by American paleoanthropologist and professor emeritus of the University College London Leslie Crum Aiello – click here. She co-authored the textbook, “An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy”, which uses the fossil record to predict the ways early hominids moved, ate, and looked. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed these bite-sized pieces of information. Keep reading below for more about Dr. Pran’s credentials and to listen to the full podcast.

Click to view Dr. Pran’s posts on Instagram

More about Dr. Pran Yoganathan

Graduating from medicine from the University of Otago in New Zealand, Dr. Pran is a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physician (FRACP) and a member of Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA). He has accredited expertise in Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and Colonoscopy as certified by the Conjoint Committee for the recognition of training in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. Working across the public and private sectors in Greater Sydney, Dr. Pran has a strong interest in the field of human nutrition. He practices an approach to healthcare that assesses the lifestyle of the patient to see how it impacts on their gastrointestinal and metabolic health. Dr. Pran believes that the current day nutritional guidelines may not be based on perfect evidence and he passionately strives to provide the most up to date literature in healthcare and science to provide “Evidence-Based Medicine”. 

Dr. Pran has a special interest in conditions such as Gastro-oesophageal Reflux (GORD), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and abdominal bloating. He takes a very thorough approach to resolve these issues using dietary manipulation In conjunction with an accredited highly qualified dietician rather than resort to long-term medications.

Ready to digest the podcast episode with Dr. Pran? Listen here:

In this BONUS edition for Spotify Listeners only – In the tradition of AsiaFitnessToday.com’s methods of using rhythm and movement as therapy, we introduce a song to seal off this episode. We have selected a mash-up song made popular by Yohani De Silva – a Sri Lankan singer songwriter and rapper, a social media star herself. Yohani did her Masters in Accounting at a Queensland university.


Is there a bigger pandemic looming?

The Novel Coronavirus nCoV or COVID-19 has been one of the most widespread diseases so far. With a death rate of 1.52 million people, many believe that this pandemic is the greatest challenge in history. But there is a bigger and far more dangerous disease that has been in our lives for longer.
Photo via Pexels Alex Green

What are NCDs?

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes, are the leading causes of death in the world. They contribute to 71% of global deaths each year. This invisible pandemic causes more death and suffering than COVID-19, year after year. 

NCDs kill approximately 41 million people every year. This is more than the population of Malaysia and Singapore put together! Unfortunately, many people remain unaware of this pandemic that has been wreaking havoc for quite a while now. 

NCDs are diseases which are non-infectious, meaning that they cannot spread from one person to another. They tend to last for a long duration and occur as a result of a combination of:

  • Genetic – Certain diseases such as diabetes, asthma and cancer are genetic, meaning that they can be inherited from parents or ancestors. (We will investigate how certain interventions have shown positive effects in disease management in another feature article later – Ed.) 
  • Physiological Factors – These are factors that are related to a person’s body and can be influenced by genes, lifestyle and other factors. For instance, obesity and high blood pressure are physiological factors. 
  • Environmental Factors – These include factors such as access to clean water, air pollution, sanitation and poverty. 
  • Behavioural Factors – These are factors that are related to an individual’s actions and lifestyle such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and lack of physical activity. These can be reduced through changes in lifestyle.

The main types of NCDs

  • Cardiovascular diseases (e.g. heart attacks and stroke)
  • Cancer (lung, breast, skin and the like)
  • Chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma 
  • Diabetes 

An indiscriminating disease

Just like COVID-19, NCDs do not discriminate but the most vulnerable are those living in developing countries. Poverty is closely linked with NCDs and increases the risk of death and disability from NCDs.

Each year, WHO reports that 15 million people between the ages of 30 and 69 years die from an NCD, and over 85% of these “premature” deaths occur in developing countries. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a leading voice and repository for facts and information on U.S. health-care issues shared in a post published on 29 Jan 2019, “The U.S. Government and Global Non-Communicable Disease Effortsthat chronic diseases in developing countries are not given the importance and attention it deserves (Ed.)

According to WHO (2018), NCDs account for:- 

26.6% of all deaths in Taiwan, 

63% of all deaths in India, 

68% of all deaths in the Philippines,

73% of all deaths in Indonesia, 

74% of all deaths in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand,

More than 80% of all deaths in Fiji, and 

89% of all deaths in China. 

The rate of deaths caused by NCDS are extremely high in Western countries with NCDS accounting for: – 

74% of all deaths in Brazil,

89% of all deaths in the United Kingdom, and 

91% of all deaths in Australia and Italy.

It has been predicted that by 2030, the global average NCD deaths from the total number of deaths would be 75.26%. That’s a whopping two-thirds of total fatality.

Ann Keeling, Chair NCD Alliance and IDF CEO stated “90 million avoidable deaths from NCDs will occur worldwide within the next decade if nothing is done. We’re angry and we want action!” 

The risk factors that increase the chances of NCDs include the person’s lifestyle and environment. 

This includes age, gender, genetics, exposure to pollution, lack of physical activity, smoking tobacco and drinking too much alcohol. 

The rise of NCDs poses devastating health consequences for individuals, families and communities, and threatens to overwhelm health systems. However, most NCDs are considered preventable because they are caused by modifiable risk factors. Having an healthy and active lifestyle such as regular physical activity and nutritious food reduces the likelihood of getting NCDs. 

Countries and other stakeholders have to support a holistic approach to health, which promotes good health and healthy behaviours, prevention of NCDs and accounts for the early detection, diagnosis, management, and treatment of NCDs. 

This article has been researched, compiled and written by the team at Asia Fitness Today; Sneha Ramesh – Intern, Monash University (Sunway campus), Syuhada Adam – Editorial consultant, Nikki Yeo & Jasmine Low – Director/Producer.

Asia Fitness Today has embarked on MISSION 2030 — to halve NCD rates in the Asia Pacific region by 2030. If we could ask if you could please share this article on social media or with someone you know and care about so we can perpetuate this ripples of awareness in the community. It begins with a whisper, a drop in the ocean and slowly, change can happen. It begins with us. Learn more: www.move8.org.


World Health Organization. (2015, October 5). NCDs, poverty and development. https://www.who.int/global-coordination-mechanism/poverty-and-development/en/

World Health Organization: WHO. (2018, June 1). Noncommunicable diseases. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/noncommunicable-diseases

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, May 26). About Global NCDs | Division of Global Health Protection | Global Health | CDC. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/healthprotection/ncd/global-ncd-overview.html#:%7E:text=NCDs%20kill%2041%20million%20people,out%20of%2010%20deaths%20worldwide.&text=Changing%20social%2C%20economic%2C%20and%20structural,age%20of%2070%E2%80%94each%20year.

Benham, B. (2018, April 5). Poverty Increases Risk of Non-Communicable Diseases in Lower Income Co. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2018/poverty-increases-risk-of-non-communicable-diseases-in-lower-income-countries.html

World Health Organisation. (2019, June 12). Noncommunicable diseases. https://www.who.int/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases#tab=tab_1

World Health Organisation. (n.d.). World Health Organization – Eastern Mediterranean Region. http://www.emro.who.int/noncommunicable-diseases/causes/index.html

Barbosa, I. (2020, April 10). The Invisible Pandemic of NCDs May Now Come To Light. Neill Institute. https://oneill.law.georgetown.edu/the-invisible-pandemic-of-ncds-may-now-come-to-light/

Wang, Y., & Wang, J. (2020). Modelling and prediction of global non-communicable diseases. BMC Public Health, 20, 1-13. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-020-08890-4 

Blinded by Sugar

“Blinded By Sugar” tells the story of Neil Hansell, a man who woke one morning blind in both eyes due to neglect of his diabetes. In this confronting 20-minute keynote presentation, Dr Muecke discusses why type 2 diabetes is a growing worldwide epidemic and explores a number of strategies to curb the toxic impact of sugar on our health.

Source: James Muecke’s YouTube Channel

An in-depth interview

We’ve been researching the work by ophthalmologist Dr. James Muecke earlier this year, having come across an article about his Australian of the Year 2020 award presented by the PM Scott Morrison. Dr. Muecke made headlines recently following his speech at the National Press Club on 1st December 2020. In that memorable speech, he speaks about a possible sugar tax as a solution to reducing the alarming rate of millions Australians presenting type 2 diabetes or are pre-diabetic. Rachel Clun of the Sydney Morning Herald summarises it well here.

AFTNN will be conducting a special interview with Dr. Muecke in the coming months and we really look forward to bringing his message to more people in the Asia Pacific region – home to two-thirds of the world’s population, sharing his ideas and proposed solutions on curbing the disease.

Learn more about the foundation: www.sightforall.org

Please support Tracey’s work by clicking through to her YouTube Channel or you can support her here: http://www.traceymcbeath.com.au

Junk food banned from children under 18 years

AFT tracks down the reports published in Mexican news media about this recent controversial ban.

In response to Mexico’s high coronavirus death toll and a high occurence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, 31 congressmen of a city in Mexico, Oaxaca passed the law last month banning the sale of snack foods like chips, candy and sugary soda drinks to children under the age of 18. One objection was noted.

Mexico’s Deputy Health Ministry Hugo López-Gatell described soft drinks as “bottled poison.”

Photo credit: Erik Mclean unsplash

In Mexico, three out of every 10 children are overweight data from the federal government’s Ministry of Health. 109 youth died from COVID-19 in July, where some of them presented with NCDs like obesity, asthma or diabetes.

“What the children should drink is water. They can have infusions, they can have a little milk, a cup or two a day, and voila. That is what children should drink, ”explained Simón Barquera Barquera, Director of the Nutrition Policy Research Division of the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico (INSP).

Simón Barquera, MD, PhD, a Friedman School alumnus (N96, NG05) was honored at the 11th annual Michael and Susan Dell Lectureship in Child Health on April 6, 2020. Pictured (from left): Simón Barquera, MD, PhD, and Deanna Hoelscher, PhD, RD, director of the MS Dell Center for Healthy Living in Texas, USA.

Diabetes, hypertension, or obesity are some of the diseases that make it difficult for people with COVID-19 to recover, and the regular consumption of sugary drinks is a trigger for these conditions, the surgeon Simón Barquera explained in an interview with Argentina’s Infobae Mexico.

The legislation was initiated by a lawyer, mother and Local Deputy for the XV district, Santa Cruz Magaly López Domínguez, who said obesity has reached “epidemic proportions” in Mexico and that Oaxaca has the highest rates of childhood obesity among the country’s 32 states.

A talk presented in March 2019 by Dip. Magaly Lopez Dominguez

Aug 6, 2020, the Morena party deputy tweeted, #Oaxaca is the first state to pass the legislation in favor of the health of girls, boys and adolescents.

A study conducted by INSP and Tufts University found that the high rates of consumption of soft drinks and other drinks with a high sugar content contributed to the deaths of more than 40,000 people a year.

Which city in Asia do you think should legislate a law such as Oaxaca’s? Do you think such a law is necessary?